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Jan 23, 2007

ACTION ALERT: Harper Must Oppose the Military Commissions Act Dear activists, October 19, 2006 On Tuesday U.S. President George Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act. The Council of Canadians is calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to oppose this legislation. As noted in yesterday's The Globe and Mail editorial, "The Military Commissions Act gives Mr. Bush what the U.S. Supreme Court rightly denied him: the authority to treat, interrogate and try foreign terrorism suspects as he sees fit, without allowing them recourse to the safeguards enshrined in the U.S. Constitution for citizens and non-citizens alike...Under this new law, U.S. agents will be able to detain suspects indefinitely without charge and continue to use some methods that run counter to international rules. They include maintaining secret prisons outside U.S. jurisdiction." The American Civil Liberties Union calls the new law, "one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history." Their fuller statement can be found at http://www.aclu.org/safefree/detention/27091prs20061017.html Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch told CBC Radio, "Clearly there is no justification for such a two-track system. So I think foreign governments should put a lot of pressure on the U.S. to change that and if they were thinking of giving information that might lead to one of their citizens being deemed as an enemy combatant they should certainly think twice about it." Canadians should be very concerned about this U.S. legislation. Given our commitment to human rights we cannot abide by the abandonment of rights which have been, as noted by the Globe, "enshrined in common law for centuries as a safeguard of freedom from arbitrary state actions." The Toronto Star reported today on a new poll that shows, "Canada ranks third worldwide in rejecting torture, behind Italy, Australia and France, which are tied. Of Canadians surveyed, 74 per cent said it was unacceptable; 22 per cent believe "some degree" could be used by governments to save innocent lives." Canadians have an additional reason -- and responsibility -- to oppose President Bush's Military Commissions Act. As reported by CBC Radio's Evan Dyer, the British government sought and obtained an exemption for British citizens from this legislation. In fact, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket has called the Act "unacceptable." However, despite the recent findings of the Arar Inquiry, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has neither sought an exemption for Canadians from this U.S. law nor has he voiced publicly any concern with it. (You can hear Evan Dyer's CBC report on this issue at http://www.cbc.ca/ottawamorning/ by clicking on "Impact of new US military law.") Furthermore, on the day President Bush signed this Act into law, Prime Minister Harper hosted U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte at a secret meeting in his Parliament Hill office. When reporters discovered this, a note from the prime minister's office stated the meeting was, "...part of a regular exchange regarding security issues between Canada and the U.S...This is an indication of how closely we work together." In fact, greater cooperation between U.S. and Canadian security and intelligence services is a key recommendation and objective of the deep integration driven Security and Prosperity Partnership. Canadians are well aware of the horror that can result when the rule of law is ignored. The example of Maher Arar's detention and rendition by U.S. agents and his torture by Syrian security forces tells us that the Military Commissions Act is wrong and must be stopped. Rather than increased cooperation with President Bush's lawlessness, Prime Minister Harper must act now to oppose it. The prime minister must: Instruct Canadian government officials to discontinue all ongoing Security and Prosperity Partnership discussions on increased security and intelligence collaboration with the United States; Impose strict new rules and protocols on any dealings with the Americans on intelligence matters; Implement immediately all 23 recommendations from Justice Dennis O'Connor's Arar Inquiry report. In particular, the prime minister must respect Recommendation 14 from Justice O'Connor which states, "The RCMP and CSIS should review their policies governing the circumstances in which they supply information to foreign governments with questionable human rights records. Information should never be provided to a foreign country where there is a credible risk that it will cause or contribute to the use of torture. Policies should include specific directions aimed at eliminating any possible Canadian complicity in torture, avoiding the risk of other human rights abuses and ensuring accountability." Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper today and tell him that his government must oppose the Military Commissions Act. He can be reached by e-mail at pm@pm.gc.ca or write or fax the Prime Minister's office at: Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington Street Ottawa K1A 0A2 Fax: 613-941-6900 For further reading on this subject, please see Alex Neve's excellent editorial from today's Toronto Star.

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Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007, 8:03 pm
Tags: international terrorism civil_rights military_commissions_act [add/edit tags]

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